“…if good music does not always save the soul, bad music never does.” – great article in National Review

The National Review has a very good article which all of you must read.

My emphases and comments:


Mysterious Encounters
Benedict XVI resurrects the aesthetics of the Mass.

By Michael Knox Beran

In a recent address to the bishops and priests of St. Peter’s, Pope Benedict called for a greater “continuity with tradition” in the music of the Church, and spoke of the value of the Church’s older musical traditions, among them the baroque sacred music of the 17th and 18th centuries and Gregorian Chant. The address followed the pope’s issuance, in July, of an Apostolic Letter (accompanying letter in English here) in which he permitted broader use of the Latin Mass, the “Tridentine” rite authorized by the Council of Trent in the sixteenth century and promulgated most recently by John XXIII in 1962.

The pope’s pronouncements were received with skepticism by those who regard his views on sacred music, like his sympathy for the Latin Mass, as so much reactionary old-fogeyism. But neither the pope’s critics nor even many of his supporters appear to have grasped what His Holiness is up to.

The pope adheres to old Greek belief that words and sounds — and the rhythmic patterns in which they are bound together in music and poetry — have a unique power to awaken the mind. [Yes!   This author understands.]  He has spoken frequently of the power of rhythm to prepare the soul to receive truths that would otherwise remain unintelligible. In 2002 he described the experience of listening to music as an “encounter with the beautiful,” one that becomes “the wound of the arrow that strikes the heart and in this way opens our eyes.” He went on to say,

For me, an unforgettable experience was the Bach concert that Leonard Bernstein conducted in Munich after the sudden death [in 1981] of Karl Richter. I was sitting next to the Lutheran Bishop Hanselmann. When the last note of one of the great Thomas-Kantor-Cantatas faded away, we looked at each spontaneously and right then we said, ‘Anyone who has heard this, knows that the faith is true.’ The music had such an extraordinary force of reality that we realized, no longer by deduction, but by the impact on our hearts, that it could not have originated from nothingness, but could only have come to be through the power of the Truth that became real in the composer’s inspiration.

For Benedict, the music and poetry of the liturgy are not merely ornamental; they are essential to the education to the soul. “How often,” the pope exclaimed, in October, to members of the Pontifical Institute for Sacred Music, “does the rich biblical and patristic tradition stress the effectiveness of song and sacred music in moving and uplifting hearts to penetrate, so to speak, the intimate depths of God’s life itself!”

It is this conception of the educational power of rhythm that underlies the pope’s defense of the Latin Mass and of the baroque and Gregorian traditions. It is a fair assumption that, in liberating these forms from liturgical purgatory, [What a great image!] His Holiness hopes that their rhythmic virtues will serve as a bulwark against the bad rhythm (kakometros) that today permeates the West.

Those who dismiss the pope’s efforts as an exercise in retrograde pomposity are oddly tone-deaf. They fail to grasp the power of the traditional Mass’s auditory as well as its visual music, its intricate interplay of harmonious sound and harmonious movement. Andrew Sullivan rejects the Tridentine Mass as “a relic.” Fr. James Martin, S.J., was quoted in Time as saying that the revival of the Latin Mass “would make it much more difficult for people to engage in full conscious and active participation” in the liturgy. Fr. Martin’s critique echoed that of Lord Macaulay, who argued that the “service, being in a dead language, is intelligible only to the learned; and the great majority of the congregation may be said to assist as spectators rather than as auditors.”

Introibo ad altare Dei . . . Sursum corda . . . Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, misere nobis . . . Critics of the Tridentine rite who contend that the Latin is a barrier to what the pope calls an “encounter with the Mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist” overlook the fact that the words of the liturgy, beautiful and mysterious as they are, are but approximations of the Word (et Deus erat Verbum) that, according to the Gospels, was born in Bethlehem, died on the cross, and ascended into heaven — the logos which, St. Paul says in first Corinthians, we perceive now only as an αινιγμα, a dark saying, a riddle, an enigma. The music of the Mass does as much to illuminate this mystery as the words.

In his essay on Dante, T. S. Eliot observed that the poetic intensity of a work of art or of the spirit often lies concealed in the music of its rhythm. “I was passionately fond,” Eliot wrote, “of certain French poetry long before I could have translated two verses of it correctly. With Dante the discrepancy between enjoyment and discrepancy was still wider. . . . The enjoyment of the Divine Comedy is a continuous process. If you get nothing out of it at first, you probably never will; [This is a very good point.] but if from your first deciphering of it there comes now and then some direct shock of poetic intensity, nothing but laziness can deaden the desire for fuller and fuller knowledge.”

So it is with the Latin Mass. Nor is it only in the rhythms of its language that the poetic intensity of the Mass is made manifest. Its rhythms of motion have their own peculiar power. Eliot described the Mass as “one of the highest forms of dancing” he knew. It was this interplay of sound and movement that led him to say that “the consummation of the drama, the perfect and ideal drama, is to be found in the ceremony of the Mass.”

Oscar Wilde
, who also knew a thing or two about drama, was no less beguiled by the dramatic rhythms of the Latin Mass. It “is always a source of pleasure and awe to me,” he wrote in De Profundis, “to remember that the ultimate survival of the Greek chorus, lost elsewhere to art, is to be found in the servitor answering the priest at Mass.”

In vindicating the music of the Latin Mass and the baroque and Gregorian traditions, Pope Benedict is attempting to restore a rhythmic balance that has been lost in art, in popular culture, and in the Church itself. “The writings of Plato and Aristotle on music,” he wrote in his book The Spirit of the Liturgy,

show that the Greek world in their time was faced with a choice between two kinds of worship, two different images of God and man. Now what this choice came down to concretely was a choice between two fundamental types of music. On the one hand, there is the music that Plato ascribes, in line with mythology, to Apollo, the god of light and reason. . . . But then there is the music that Plato ascribes to Marsyas, which we might describe, in terms of cultic history, as “Dionysian.” It drags man into the intoxication of the senses, crushes rationality, and subjects the spirit to the senses.

The Greeks cherished an Apollonian idea of order. Yet, such was their wisdom, they did not repudiate Apollo’s rival, Dionysus; they took his yelps and howls and made them into music. The dithyramb and the tragic chorus preserved the uncanny power of Dionysus while they at the same time restrained his savagery with the civilizing influences of rhythm. Thus the pope writes of “music that draws senses into spirit and so brings man to wholeness.” Such music “does not abolish the senses, but inserts them into the unity of this creature that is man. It elevates the spirit precisely by wedding it to the senses, and it elevates the senses by uniting them with the spirit.”

The pope’s critique of the “cultic character” of certain kinds of rock music — music which, he argues, converts the self into a “prison” and leaves the soul in thrall to the “elemental passions,” to “the ecstasy of having” its “defenses torn down” — is not old-fogeyism: it is a persuasive account of a civilization that is losing its sense of what Plato called eurhythmia, order, proportion, and gracefulness.

Of course the eurhythmia which the pope extols does not invariably lead people towards the good and the true. The music of Tristan und Isolde went deep into the soul of Adolf Hitler; he expressed the wish that, at the moment of his own annihilation, he should hear the Liebestod in the bunker. The beauty of Wagner’s music did not save Hitler from damnation, and may indeed have strengthened his longing for a murderous apocalypse. But if good music does not always save the soul, bad music never does. When the electric guitar sounds during the Sacrifice of the Mass, the cherubim weep.  [This is one of the best things I have read in a very long time.  I have contended for years, with others, that the true reform of Church music will come to fruition when the last guitar is busted over the head of the last uneeded lay minister of Holy Communion.]

The pope’s attempts to revive the musical glories of a Church that inspired Mozart’s Requiem and Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis represent a cultural event of primary importance. If Benedict is successful, the Church, in becoming once again the patron and protector of eurhythmia, will be better able to carry out its historic mission as an educator of the spirit.

 —Michael Knox Beran is a contributing editor of City Journal. His book, Forge of Empires 1861-1871: Three Revolutionary Statesmen and the World They Made, has just been published by Free Press.

The last point deserves an additional bump.  


Holy Church has always been the great expert on humanity there has evern been.  As a result, for various motives, she was always the greatest patroness of the arts.  As expert and patroness, but with a divine mission and filled with the Holy Spirit, the Church has bequeathed two mighty treasure to all of humanity:

art and saints.

In art we see God’s beauty truth made manifest in matter, in images of beauty.   In saints we see His beauty and truth manifest in living images.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Jim says:

    This piece really speaks to me. I was there when they threw out the Gregorian and brought in the guitars. I have been wandering in purgatory for 40 years, waiting for the reform of the reform. I fear it will not come to the Diocese of Santa Rosa during my lifetime. The sound of an electric guitar or, worse, a drum set, is totally inconsistent with what is happening on the altar. What modernism has done to the Holy Sacrifice verges on blasphemy. Interestingly, the Eastern rite has been pretty much immune from the scandalous forms of worship which have infected the Roman rite.

  2. Royce says:

    The comment about the Bach concert comes from On the Way to Jesus Christ, a great book that I am currently reading.

    The piece reminds me of an oft cited remark from Dostoyevsky (that Benedict discusses in the previously mentioned work): “Beauty will save the world.” Of course, that’s often misinterpreted, but should be considered along Keat’s acclamation: “Beauty is truth, truth beauty,” and our Christian knowledge that God is Truth. Implicit in all that, though, is an awareness that some things are just not beautiful, which of course Modernists reject.

  3. Danno says:

    Pope John Paul II of happy memory is often remembered as a poet while Benedict XVI is often characterized as a German sourpuss, but I’m often struck by our Holy Father’s lyrical soul and profound understanding of poetry.

  4. Danno says:

    Pope John Paul II of happy memory is often remembered as a poet while Pope Benedict is often (mis)characterized as a German sourpuss, but I’m often struck by his lyrical soul and profound grasp of the power of poetry.

    P.S. Thanks for the blog, Father and Merry Christmas!

  5. Brian Day says:

    I am heartened that more and more mainstream media articles are “getting it”. Like Jim (above) the reform of the reform will not bear fruit in many areas in my lifetime. But like our gracious host often says, “brick by brick”, it is happening.

    Deo Gratia

  6. Jean-Luc DeLacroix says:

    …I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again…Get Pete Townshend to smash that last guitar…”Meet the New Mass! Same as the Old Mass!…and we get on our knees and pray…WE WON’T GET FOOLED AGAIN!”


  7. Henry Edwards says:

    Father Z: I have contended for years, with others, that the true reform of Church music will come to fruition when the last guitar is busted over the head of the last uneeded lay minister of Holy Communion.

    I saw somewhere an account in which a new priest allegedly assembled a parish’s quitar players to thank them for their past service which, he proceeded to inform them, would no longer be needed in the new music program he planned. One of them asked if this meant that the music the parish had been doing for the past 15 years was down the drain. In the version I saw, his reply to this very pertinent question was perhaps a bit loquacious; I thought a more succinct single-word answer would have sufficed.

  8. Dan Hunter says:

    Thank you so much for this enlightened and commonsensical article.
    God bless you on the eve of our Saviors birth and please say a little prayer that our choir sings the High Mass at Midnight tonight
    with reverence and beauty to the little Babe of Bethlehem, our sweet and awesome Lord.
    “Laetentur coeli, et exsultet terra ante faciem Domine:quoniam venit.”

  9. Brian says:

    I’m in the San Diego area, and attended an “ordinary form” of the mass last night at a parish I’ve never been before. I was pleasantly suprised to hear traditional music, and although the mass was in English, the priest said the consecration in Latin, “Ad Orientem”, and used bells for the elevations.

    These changes really seemed to enhance the atmosphere of reverance, and I found it to be very moving. The priest appeared to be young (in his 30s), which makes me very hopeful for the future! :)

  10. Malta says:

    \”Holy Church has always been the great expert on humanity there has evern been. As a result, for various motives, she was always the greatest patroness of the arts.\”

    That is mostly true, however, ironically, it took a group of mostly non-Catholic intellectuals to keep the traditional Latin Mass alive in the U.K.:


    Because of this petition to Paul VI, an admirer of Agatha Christie\’s, the \”Agatha Christie Indult\” was created. A protestant writer prevailing on the Roman Pontiff to allow a traditional Latin Mass; irony indeed!

  11. Kal says:

    I’m the the Saginaw area and have spent the last four weeks of Advent listening to the worst liturigcal music imaginable. Our Communion hymn has been a RECORDING of “Lord, teach us to pray” by Joseph Wise; nice contempory Christian music, but does not belong as a part of the Mass. I am dreading what tonight’s youth Mass will be bringing. I hope every Bishop sees these, heeds the Holy Father’s words and passes this on to every “Music Minister” that just doesn;t get it yet.

  12. Jeff Miller says:

    What a great article.

    One of Peter Kreeft’s compilations for the existence of God includes:

    “17. The Argument from Aesthetic Experience

    There is the music of Johann Sebastian Bach.
    Therefore there must be a God.

    You either see this one or you don’t.”

  13. Father M says:

    For years, there have been steady, clear voices contending just this, voices in the liturgical wilderness. Now the desert is starting to bloom, thanks be to God.

  14. Sid Cundiff says:

    An excellent statement of the aesthetics of music and the interface of music and the Faith. Thank you.

  15. Marilyn says:

    Thank you for this wonderful article. A priest who had just celebrated a TLM recently told me that we couldn’t have done a better job to chase people out of the Church after Vatican II if we had used whips and chains. He paused, then added, “But instead, we did it with guitars.”

  16. Melody says:

    Bless you Father. I almost started to cry once when they made us do this horrible song involving clapping with the beat. (The claps were actually written in as part of the music).

    When I went to a high mass in the traditional form, every member of the congregation was chanting along with the schola. If that’s not “active and conscious pariticipation” I don’t know what is… I imagine you must be “active” in resisting the urge to grind your teeth whenever you read or hear that phrase.

    Now, if they could just play only GOOD english music and only use choral arrangements. Even Haugen’s “Mass of Creation” sounds pretty decent when sung by a good choir. Favorites of mine include a choral arrangement of “Seek Ye First” that is sung as counterpoint to Bach’s “Canon in D” or “O Beauty Ever Ancient” whose words derive from a prayer in Saint Augustine’s “Confessions.” Tonight we sang “Lo How a Rose E’er Blooming” and “Sweet Child of Bethlehem.”

    My dream is of a perfectly translated English version of the TLM for the families with young ones. All the songs would be half in English and half in Latin, to help the kids learn their prayers. Miracles do happen, right?

  17. Scott W. says:

    Wonderful article. However, we must bear in mind that the sentimental slop-music of the 1970’s should not be replaced with the sentimental slop-music of the 1870’s.

  18. Royce says:

    I’m also reminded of the EWTN special shortly after the release of Summorum Pontificum when someone called in to ask if he could play guitar at a “Traditional Mass” and the priest answering questions told him to put down the guitar, pick up a missal, and start praying.

  19. Malta says:

    \”My dream is of a perfectly translated English version of the TLM for the families with young ones.\” Canon 9 of the Council of Trent declared the idea of a vernacular-only Mass to be heretical. Arguments can be made as to whether this prohibition applies to the New Mass or not, but it certainly applies to the Vetus Ordo.

    I have four kids between five and eleven; they are all spiritually nourished by and, ironically, better behaved at a traditional Latin Mass. Most of the great Saints, such as St. Therese of Lisieux were nourished as children with the Latin mass, even though they did not speak Latin. Children have more spiritual acumen than many give them credit for. Children, especially, should be raised in the traditional Latin Mass. In our world, where everything is simplified–stupified–we need the Latin Mass like never before. In it were forged many of the great Saints, and the idea that we can improve upon it by vernacularizing it is a horrendous misunderstanding of what this Mass is, and why it is in Latin, and needs to remain in Latin.

  20. Melody says:

    Malta- I suppose that I cannot help but speak for a vernacular mass because of my own personal experience. I cannot forget the profound moment when I first really listened to the prayer of consecration and realized what was happening. I was eight.
    I support the Latin mass for its reverence and definitely feel there is more in it for an adult. Mind, I would wish that the music for the English mass have plenty of Latin.
    I also agree that children should be exposed to the Latin mass from an early age, but that a vernacular mass can provide education.

    I am not well-versed in Church history, but would guess that the earlier mandate against mass in the vernacular was formed greatly in response to disobedience and schism, thus differentiating it from a vernacular mass approved by Rome. I’m certain the Church took great offense at people proposing their own rites.

  21. Malta says:


    Your sentiments are spot on; who doesn’t want their child to understand the mass more?

    I bought Maria Montessori’s “Latin Mass for Children,” and have read it to them. Little souls need to be properly brought up in the Faith.

    It really is ironic, but my young children have more reverence at a Latin Mass than at our guitar-strumming local mass. Children, more than us, absorb the profundity of the totality of the circumstances around them; every gesture, nuance, and reverence is absorbed by them. Whereas, for us, we may just go to mass to fulfill our weekly obligation. To children, the mass is much more significant than a weekly obligation. Ironically, children have more innate reverence than we do. We are more socially-concience, they are more intuitive.

    I am only speaking from the experience of my four kids, but I think the traditional Latin Mass is much preferable to the Novus Ordo for their Souls’ formation.

    Again, look at the great Saints, they were mostly nourished by this tremendous Rite, Latin and all!!

    God Bless, Melody,


  22. Malta says:


    Speaking of good music; has anyone studied Mozart’s Ave Verum Corpus? He wrote it six months before he died; it is one of the most sublime pieces Mozart ever wrote. I am wondering if it dates to the fourteenth century as Wikipedia says, are earlier?

    Anyway, it is astonishingly beautiful as rendered by Mozart.

  23. Melody says:

    Malta- We get to sing at my parish’s Novus Ordo at Easter! It’s my favorite. Apparently the text is adapted from a Latin poem by Pope Innocent VI.

    Chris- Sounds like an interesting book. Is it coincidence that the author shares the name of the private school chain? I would agree that children absorb ritual more readily than adults do.
    I was fortunate in my youth to have attended a more reverent Novus Ordo mass, and was unhappy at age 10 when a liberal pastor took over (my family agreed when I asked to switch parishes). I still think a properly celebrated vernacular mass (reverent, ad orientem, altar rails, etc) would provide great education for children if they were to attend it about once a month.

  24. Melody says:

    LOL. Noticed just now that Chris and Malta are the same person…

  25. Tridentine Catholic says:

    At the Novus Ordo parish I attend sometimes we are privileged to have lesbians playing guitars and metal slinkies bi-monthly. It is particularly poignant when they give each other longing looks when holding hands during the Pater Noster and embrace with a peck on the cheek during the Pax. They are quite skilled at making the banal ditties of OCP sound even more liberal and awful than they were written. This truly open minded forward-thinking progressive parish prides itself on their diversity in accepting this B.S.. Would you believe that it is ran by a “nun” that does not even dress in her habit? Thank God and Pope Benedict for the Tridentine Mass! When I go to the “real” Mass I do not have to worry about all of that B.S. and I can pray in peace without having hateful thoughts about the direction and eternal destination of the people around me.

  26. Karl Meier says:

    I have been a church musician since the age of 8. I understand both the english and latin Novus Ordo, and the TLM, and love all of them equally for the place they hold in our sacred tradition and the way they individually reach all parts of our church.

    I am deeply sadened by this article and this website…or at least the comments I see on it. I think the holy fater’s words are being drastically misrepresented. The holy father wants tradition to be embraced and carried on, and unified with the present. That is one of the beauties of our church. My parish offers the novus ordo as well as a monthly TLM (at least until the pastor is trained and can offer it more frequently) as well as a monthly youth mass. I understand the belief that guitars are distracting and discordant because I have witnessed it. I have also witnessed gregorian chant, and traditional organ music that destroyed my concentration and pulled me out of prayer. All of these forms of music can be done badly, and all can be beautiful and prayerful. Music is a language and if you speak a different language than the people you speak to, they will not understand it and it can do nothing for them. And instruments are as prayerful and appropriate as the people who play them.
    Contemporary Catholic music is an art that few have mastered. Not all of it was written for the mass, and all too often it is used liturgically anyway, but IT CAN BE DONE WELL when someone with a discerning ear plans the liturgy. Comments I have recieved after one of our teen liturgies have been “this music is joyful.” And “I can sing this to God” I am deeply sorry if the experiences you have had with contemporary music have been bad. I have been fortunate enough to have had beautiful experiences with latin, chant, baroque, contemporary, and many forms of music and believe that God is pleased when we offer Him what we love.

    Tearing down forms of music that you don’t appreciate and denouncing them as immoral rips at the fibers that hold our church together. If you see somehthing lacking in your parish, ask your priest to ADD it, not replace something that others use to become close to God. Please don’t give traditionalism a bad name. The true tradition of the church is to foster and encourage the creation of new sacred music while embracing and continuing the old.

    By the way…what type of music do you think Jesus and his Apostles sang? (this would be the TRUE traditional music of the church) If anyone has the answer, please email me at PrayTwice824@hotmail.com

  27. Fr Renzo di Lorenzo says:

    Hey Karl Meier. For your BTW, try the psalms, UNEDITED. HAR!

    Music that is joyful? Sung merely “to God”? Sounds like the “planning” of “creative” “liturgies” has lost the plot. Don’t you see? Liturgy isn’t about shoving something in front of God, even if we think it is beautiful, etc. Instead, the Liturgy is to carry us into the celestial Liturgy. You not seeing this proves the point of the article. On your behalf, thanksgiving to Fr Z.

    As for your comment — “The holy father wants tradition to be embraced and carried on, and unified with the present” — see https://wdtprs.com/2007/12/heres-a-headline-we-havent-seen-before/#comments and scroll down to “No, Chironomo…” and subsequent comments.

    Fr Z wrote: “I have contended for years, with others, that the true reform of Church music will come to fruition when the last guitar is busted over the head of the last uneeded lay minister of Holy Communion.” Now, that might seem a little harsh, but I remember a story that St Louis Marie Grignon de Montfort went out front of the church where he had just finished offering Mass and, no kidding, busted a chair over the heads of some loudmouthed men who had been causing a rucuss of joyful noise during the Mass.

    I’ve seen so much “fill up my senses” “liturgies” that well… I better not continue!

  28. Little Gal says:

    “Tearing down forms of music that you don’t appreciate and denouncing them as immoral rips at the fibers that hold our church together…The true tradition of the church is to foster and encourage the creation of new sacred music while embracing and continuing the old.”

    Karl: How right you are. Here is a clip of modern sacred music that I particularly like. It is set to the 23rd psalm and was composed by Goodall. I hope others won’t let the fact that it’s been used as a theme song for a British program dissuade them. Here is the You tube link:


  29. Karl Meier says:

    “try the psalms, UNEDITED”

    -Accompanied by what? A harp. A stringed instrument and predecesor to a guitar.

    And I will need to see documentation on one of our great saints using base violence to prove a point. Hear say won’t do it for me.

    Remeber that Silent Night was composed for guitar, and some of our greates classical composers wrote for guitar, and other similar instruments.

    The problem I have isn’t with obhections to specific songs, it is with the complete generalization of an entire instrument.

    As far as everything that you wrote in your highly over used quotation marks, the mass should be joy filled, and the music should allow the participants to sing to God. Look at the words first, and allow the music to support them and raise them up.

    I am not talking about a “filling up your senses” liturgy, but a liturgy where music is a gateway to a deeper understanding of the mass. Leave the emotional relationships to other churches. The catholic church has substance, and when you add that to music that is moving and joy filled, as well as contemplative and adoring, you have what makes our church the truest path to Christ.

  30. Henry Edwards says:

    Karl: Comments I have recieved after one of our teen liturgies have been “this music is joyful.”

    The Sacrifice of the Mass makes present to us the Sacrifice of the Cross. Would you sing joyful music at the foot of the Cross?

    This question is admittedly partly polemical, but it also is partly serious. Is there a question as to what place (if any) “joyful music” has as sacred music?

  31. Melody says:

    Karl, I really understand what you are saying and I agree that contemporary music can be done right. Not all contemporary music is bad. However, if is very, very easy to do it badly. On the other hand, older forms of worship, like Gregorian chant and the TLM, are highly scripted and even when done badly cannot disrupt prayer the way a clown Novus Ordo mass can. Also, you must admit that at least some of contemporary stuff is really awful music; riddled with theological errors and should be dumped for the good of humanity.

    Please also note that the enthusiasm for the TLM that appears here is largely uncensored and much more blunt than anything that might be addressed in public. People to let off steam here among like-minded folks. We may laugh hysterically over “My Bishop Got Run Over By Ratzinger” but the lyrics are certainly not about to appear in a parish bulletin anywhere.

    Little Gal: I liked that music your posted. But try to imagine that same lovely tune sung off-key by three teenagers to music played on a cheap keyboard and an acoustic guitar. That is currently the state of music in most parishes. One reason I am not so hard on the Novus Ordo as some is that I attend a parish with two full choirs and an organ, where that song would be done justice.

    On the other hand, Gregorian chant requires no instruments, just a director and small handful of singers, with no need for a SATB balance. The poorest parish in the world could afford a schola. Chant isn’t even copyrighted, so they wouldn’t need to buy expensive hymnals that have to be replaced every year.

  32. Karl Meier says:

    Joy has its place beside suffering. That is one of the beliefs that separates us from other churches. Joy doesn’t mean what our world believes is “happiness”. It is one of the most talked about graces in the Bible. Joy in Christ’s love for us that caused Him to be sacrificed for our sins.

    Also, look to the words of the Gloria, and the Sanctus. The mass is filled with joy, penitence, awe…God created us with all of these for a purpose, and they can all be used the His glory.

  33. Karl Meier says:


    Thank you for your kind post. I understand that sometimes people tend to let off steam, but I think that we must always be aware that this is a public environment, and negative comments we make, unkind things we say are there for the world to see, and it represents our church badly. Certainly I am not trying to say we shouldn’t dare to be contraversial, because Christ is the most contraversial figure in history, however, the occasions he spoke harshly are greatly outnumberd by his loving responses.

    Regarding chant as something that isn’t easy to be distracting…I have to disagree. I have been to several schola masses that have been agony to me. It is the pastors job to find a music director who will not allow that group of off key teenagers or the sharp and flat SATB choir to perform.

    Any music can be done badly. The point is to find the style that can be effectively, appropriately used in each church.

  34. Little Gal says:

    “The Sacrifice of the Mass makes present to us the Sacrifice of the Cross. Would you sing joyful music at the foot of the Cross?
    Is there a question as to what place (if any) “joyful music” has as sacred music?”

    My answer to this is that the tone of the music should differ according to the parts of the(NO)liturgy and their meaning. The music played during communion IMO would definitely need more solemnity( to reflect the sacrifice of the cross). But, what about the recessional hymn for example? If we are being charged to go forth and serve the Lord, wouldn’t we want something that inspires and uplifts and reminds us of our mission ? Do we want the Gloria-a hymn of praise- to sound like the wailing of widows?

  35. Karl Meier says:

    Amen! Little Gal.

    Music is support for the words. The mass is not monotone.

  36. Melody says:

    Wow, painfully bad gregorian chant is kind of hard to do. My guess is they must have been taking direction from someone who hates it. People like that always seem to screw up on the mixed notation (adapted from ‘square’ notes) and make the music sound dull. I’ve heard a professional chorale do this.

    Pardons, but you must listen to music more often if you think that a harp sounds anything like a guitar. The harp actually led to the harpsichord, which itself led to the piano. The harpsichord actually sounds a bit like a harp. Then there’s the huge difference between classical and acoustic guitar…

    Personally, I can’t think of anything more deeply moving than this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kHW1vEwIGic

    There is joy in that Karl. “No cross, no crown…” This is what is it means to be Catholic–to find joy in penitence and suffering, because it can only bring us closer to Christ Our Lord. One must reject anything that tries to minimize the cross and focus only on happy things, because that is never true joy. We must take up the cross as the symbol of hope and triumph.

  37. Karl Meier says:


    I assure you, the music I use in my liturgies isn’t purely “happy”. My point is that sacred text and scripture set to contemporary music is effective in communicating the message of the mass to those who understand and appreciate it’s style.

    As far as the harp is concerned, there are many different types, and many do sound like a classical guitar, accoustic guitar and harpsichord. I am sure that the musicians of David’s era wouldn’t have used a classical harp.

    Lastly, focusing on the “happiness” dilutes the greatness of the sacrifice, it is true, but focusing only on the suffering does the same thing in the opposite direction. The suffering of the crucifixion was only part of Christ’s life.

  38. Melody says:

    “my liturgies”? Explain please.

  39. Karl Meier says:

    I’m sorry, that was badly phrased. I should have said “the liturgies I prepare for the youth mass.” Meaning the music I use for the hymns and sung mass parts.

  40. lynea says:

    Royce, do you happen to know the name of the priest that said that? That must have been great to see! Guitar players in the Masses always seem to draw attention to themselves. The folk music that is popular in the Novus Ordo Masses tends to do the same, where even the more popular folk songs have frequently the words “I” and “me”. The latin chants, however, do just the opposite: they draw attention to the miracle occuring at the altar, while offering also a meditative prayer of adoration to those that follow the words in latin. More often their words aare direct text from scripture. But even the meditation pieces after Mass tend to be more reverent. A personal favorite: Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent. For those of you who don’t know it, here’s the first verse:

    Let all mortal flesh keep silent, and with fear and trembling stand.
    Ponder nothing earthly minded, for with blessings in his hand —
    Christ our God to earth descendeth, Our full homage to demand.

  41. lynea says:

    Karl, How do you mean that it is better to “dillute the greatness of the sacrifice”? I’m sure I must be misunderstanding what you meant. (It happens.) While the crucifixion was only part of Christ’s life, he came to be crucified. He came to suffer, to become that Sign of Contradiction, taking our sins to himself on the cross. His sacrifice is our reason for authentic joy, for loving one another… not out of a feeling that can be derived out of a style that detracts form the Mass, but something that takes us out of the Spirit of the World, out of ourselves and into the Heavenly realm. Authentic joy comes from interior silence that is conducive to prayer, and only in this can we grow in the faith that gives us eyes to see that the Cross is our victory with Christ, and his victory for us and in us. Those who see the Sacrifice of Christ as a reason for despair do not know the true meaning of his coming. Perhaps bodily death is the ultimate sorrow for those who mean to store up treasures on earth rather than in Heaven.

    Our Lord had some choice words for Peter when Peter actually incinuated to our Lord that his words were inflammatory, when the Lord foretold of his crucifixion. You are absolutely correct in saying that certain people wish not to think of such things, but if it’s important to our Lord, then shouldn’t it be important to us? Shouldn’t we be thinking more like the Lord?

    Isn’t the value of a gift measured by its cost? Our Lord chose to suffer for the sake of our souls. Shouldn’t we take account of the cost of the gift we receive from the altar? This Gift does not promise us happiness in the temporal things, but the the things of Heaven in this life, that we might be joined to him in the next.

  42. Karl says:

    “Karl, How do you mean that it is better to “dillute the greatness of the sacrifice”?”

    Lynea, you did misunderstand me. I didn’t say the word “better” anywhere in that post. You added it yourself. I said that it was equally wrong to focus only on either extreme, rather, we need to focus on the union of the two. The cross is the place where joy and sorrow meet.

  43. lynea says:

    Karl, My apologies for misunderstanding you. Are you saying that you do not support the use of chant in the liturgies in which you direct the choir?

    I just read an earlier post of yours, “I am not talking about a “filling up your senses” liturgy, but a liturgy where music is a gateway to a deeper understanding of the mass. Leave the emotional relationships to other churches. The catholic church has substance, and when you add that to music that is moving and joy filled, as well as contemplative and adoring, you have what makes our church the truest path to Christ.” I really appreciate this statement. The trouble I think several people (inc. myself) have is the idea of deciding on liturgical music based mainly on whether or not the congregation thinks that the music is joyful. There is a certain solemnity that needs to be evoked in the music, and merely trying to get people to be joyful isn’t a good way to accomplish this task. Actually, I think we need to agree on our terms, as far, at least, as what we mean by “joyful” — do you mean a major key, with an uplifiting lilt? If that be the intended meaning, how then does a choir director help to establish the “balance” to which you referred earlier? We can sing joyful songs that are chant and in minor key, for instance, Puer Natus In Bethlehem (chant), or Rorarte Caeli (chant)– the later which is inextricably tied to the Mass during Advent. The chant also serves to become a part of the Mass more succinctly because its characteristics are subtle enough to not call so much attention to itself, while still raising the spirits and minds to the prayer of the Mass. Too many people think “newer is better”, and are always looking for new ways to be entertained, but person does not lack in ability to pray because of boredom, but because of interior sloth. It’s simply impossible to please the majority of people in popular culture equate authentic devotions with innovation and aroused emotions.

    Can you give some examples of the modern music you are now using? When you say “modern” do you mean Contemporary (i.e., would include Impressionistic music), or more mainstream? There is some very beautiful pieces from the Impressionistic period, no doubt (Faure, Durufle), but I think that they inadvertantly detract from the Mass.

    Another reason I prefer the ancient music is on principle. The idea of updating to modern music music for the tastes of the people seems to, in it of itself, be an action that is based on the principle that the sacred is something familiar, as it is similar to something that we might here in the world. The more familiar a type of sound is the less “set apart” it is. Those who look to the past do so largely not out of a simple nostalgia, but because we look to the history of the Church, it’s stability due to it’s unchanging beliefs and to its saints. If we say that innovation is necessary, then we are saying that the Catholic culture must adapt to the modern culture aesthetically-speaking. The problem with this is that aesthetically most people might now what they like, but what they like is quite often not conducive to authentic devotion.

  44. Ryan says:

    “The pope’s attempts to revive the musical glories of a Church that inspired Mozart’s Requiem and Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis represent a cultural event of primary importance. If Benedict is successful, the Church, in becoming once again the patron and protector of eurhythmia, will be better able to carry out its historic mission as an educator of the spirit.”

    I wonder how many Bishops would agree with this statement? That’s the problem with conciliarism these days…Pope Benedict should just lord it over them old-fashioned style…

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